Sunday I joined the cooking-with-beer club. The results left my family fat and happy. Turns out using beer instead of milk makes for a sharp, unique taste similar to fondue. And using all your favorite cheeses renders the richest, creamiest, tastier gourmet beer mac & cheese ever. This recipe is perfect for cheese-lovers, beer-lovers and pretty much anyone who appreciates a better-than-Kraft mac & cheese. Serve it at your next Sunday night football party or keep it all for yourself (there wasn’t any leftover, but I bet it’s just as delicious the next day around).
We all know a master chef never measures or follows a recipe, so I approached this project from a free range cooking perspective (i.e. I threw a bunch of stuff into a pan and taste-tested it until I was satisfied). Here’s my if-I-had-to-guess list of ingredients and their quantities:
- 1 pound high fiber pasta shells
- 1/2 cup beer (I used Cape Coral Brewing Company Hungryland APA)
- 1 1/2 cup sour cream
- A lot of cheese. I used four varieties: Cabot seriously sharp white cheddar (1 cup), shredded yellow sharp cheddar (1 cup), Asiago (1/2 cup) and garlic & herb goat (1/4 cup)
- 2 tablespoons butter or margarine (I compensated for cheese overload with a healthy butter wannabe)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 tomato finely chopped
- 2 cups spinach finely chopped
- 1/2 yellow onion finely chopped
- Basil, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
Bring water to a boil and cook pasta shells al dente over medium heat. Do not cook pasta all the way. Once cooked halfway, strain pasta, rinse with cool water and set aside.
Combine sour cream and butter in a saucepan and heat on low. Add cheese periodically, stirring to create creamy mixture. Add beer to thin mixture and continue stirring regularly. Option to add seasonings.
Bring skillet to low heat on neighboring burner. Add dollop of olive oil. Once hot, add garlic and onion. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. One slightly cooked, add tomato and spinach. Add seasonings and let sizzle.
Once cheese mixture reaches desired thickness, stir in sauteed garlic, onion, tomato and spinach. Add pasta shells and cook for 5 minutes or until shells cook completely. Stir thoroughly.
Transfer gourmet beer mac & cheese from saucepan to baking dish. Sprinkle cheese of choice (I used cheddar and Asiago) to coat top of shells. Place in oven and cook on broil until top browned – no longer than 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow a few minutes to cool, Then scoop a bowlful of the richest, most delicious gourmet beer mac & cheese you’ve ever tasted. Enjoy!